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  1. #1

    Default Juniper wilderness closed until 3/13/19

    Can't say I'm surprised. A bear comes in to the main camp area almost every time I'm out there. Weekend before last I was out there, camped north of the main firepit/camp area and screaming could be heard about 9 PM. The weekend before that I camped on the south side of that area and found this:



    Some geniuses decided it would be a good idea to bury their corned beef hash cans and other trash under an inch of soil.

    USDA press release:

    From the USFS:
    Effective immediately, Juniper Prairie #Wilderness on the Ocala National Forest is temporarily closed due to increased bear activity. It will reopen on March 13, 2019.
    USDA Forest Service officials, in consultation with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials, have issued this closure for the protection of public safety and health. Forest Service law enforcement officers will enforce the closure, which runs the wilderness boundary and includes all roads and trails within the area defined on the boundary map.

    Visitors to the area surrounding the wilderness should report any nuisance bear activity to the MyFWC Wildlife Alert Hotline (888) 404-3922. The wilderness will reopen when Forest Service and FWC officials determine it is safe.
    “We estimate that more than 1,000 bears live on the Ocala National Forest,” said District Ranger Carl Bauer. “However, some people don’t practice Leave No Trace or adhere to wilderness ethics when they visit Juniper Prairie. If they leave food or other attractants at their campsites, bears learn that tents mean food. A habituated bear will rip into tents regardless of people or food being present. This type of activity endangers our visitors.”
    Practicing Leave No Trace can reduce and/or deter nuisance bear and wildlife activity. For tips and information on outdoor ethics visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website at https://lnt.org/learn/techtips.
    “The LNT website is a great resource that provides training and guidance for enjoying the great outdoors responsibly,” said Bauer.

  2. #2
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    Default

    That's really sad. Last time I was out there will probably be my last for a while. It just felt very overused and I didn't like feeling like I was adding to the problem. Plus I had to chase a bear off with my shoe.

    Any news on the area to north? I did the southern half of the FT in Ocala from Clearwater Lake to Pat's Island in January. I want to do Hopkins north to Rodman over spring break. Anyone been out there recently? Are the rainbow people running wild still?
    "I am learning nothing in this trivial world of [humans]. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news." --John Muir

  3. #3

    Default

    Sure it's overused, especially right around the pond. Everyone camps near the main firepit or in an area off to the left about 50 yds away. I'm camping up the crooked sapling prairie to the north. It's much better.

  4. #4

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    Here's the sign at Pat's. There were several cars parked in the lot so I'm sure some walked right by without reading. Last time it was closed FWC had tape blocking the trail. The trails coming in from FR 33 had no signs posted at those trailheads.

    I parked at Hopkins intending to camp about an hour north on the FT at a small pond but the FS decided to do a controlled burn around the entire prairie last week so it was sooted up. I wound up camping near the CG and I spoke with the camp host at Hopkins who told me the bear at HP had become aggressive and could not be scared off in its attempts to raid campsites.

  5. #5

    Default

    Update: Checked the Ocala forest site before heading out for a few days. No camping allowed in Juniper, day use only.

    Juniper Prairie Wilderness and Juniper Run-Open for Day UseArea(s): Juniper Prairie Wilderness, Yearling Trail
    Date(s): Feb 13, 2019
    Juniper Prairie Wilderness, including Juniper Run, is open for day use only. Overnight camping still prohibited due to dangerous bear activity.



    https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/ocala/alerts-notices

  6. #6

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    Another update: The bear hs been caught and euthanized.

    https://www.ocala.com/news/20190318/...orest-campsite

  7. #7
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    I (and everyone in the Hidden Pond area) had a run-in with that bear in late January. I may have been down there the week before he entered the tent. I was up in that fantastic site at the point in the live oaks you recommended, martinb. He came into my camp and I ran him off. He managed to get my food bag on the ground, but wasn't able to get into it (kevlar bag inside a wire mesh bag). He visited every site there numerous times that night.

    I heard him get my food bag down (had bells tied to it that I could hear from my campsite---those went crazy), so I knew he had that if he wanted it, but he kept showing up again after that in my campsite even though all smellables were in my food bag away from camp. I eventually ended up moving camp and set up with everyone else at the main sites so that it wasn't just me vs. the bear. The next morning, I went back up to where I'd hung my food bag expecting either to find that he'd dragged my bag off somewhere, or find it all obliterated on the ground, but it was intact and it didn't look like he'd made too much effort---just gave up and figured he'd find something easier.


    Thanks again for your info, martinb. It was helpful and very much appreciated.
    Last edited by schlanky; 03-22-2019 at 20:02.

  8. #8

    Default

    Sorry you had to experience that schlanky. I got back Sat from a two-nighter in the now re-opened JPW, one at the point spot you mentioned. No one out there except for myself. I did a check of all campsites in that area and two spots tucked under some small pines, about 50 yards behind the main firepit, were trashed. Some yahoos decided to bury plastic wrappers, empty cans, and the like in shallow holes by their campfires. All were dug up by the bear. FWC did not clean them up, either, despite all the time they supposed spent there while it was closed.

    There are two human problems at hidden pond/crooked sapling, careless campers and little-no enforcement of posted food handling requirements by FWC or the Forest Service. I see another bear becoming a problem out there soon enough.

    Forgot to ask you, were any of those campers by the main pit hanging their food?
    Last edited by martinb; 03-24-2019 at 13:10.

  9. #9
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    I'm not sure if other folks had food hung or not. It was about 10 pm when I moved down to the other sites, and I only talked to people in one campsite. It was raining just before daylight the next morning and I had a nine hour drive home, so I packed up in the dark and went to look for my food bag at first light. After finding it, I got on the trail and was gone before any of the other sites except the guys who took me into their site were up and moving.
    Last edited by schlanky; 03-25-2019 at 07:28.

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